Listen up, kids. If you absolutely must get high, at least do yourself the favor of sticking to good old weed. Grass has been around a while, some 5,000 years or more, and should something go wrong while you puff away, the medical profession and people around you know pretty well how to deal with it. I do not condone criminal activities, but I think we need to be honest with the facts. For example, no one has ever died from a cannabis overdose alone (see Pharmacology & Therapeutics 2002, 95, 127-135. DOI: 10.1016/S0163-7258(02)00252-8).

Natural cannabis vs synthetic cannabinoids

THC – a family of naturally occurring psychoactive compounds found in cannabis – the fun ingredient in ganja, the one that makes you giggle like a 4-year-old, the one that makes you enjoy house music, the one that makes you crave candy, and the one that makes you reach for Clear Eyes® – is what medicinal chemists and pharmacologists call a partial agonist of the cannabinoid receptor. This means that no matter how much herb you ingest, you are unable to fully saturate your cannabinoid receptor system, thus making it impossible to overdose on Mary Jane alone. One could say that THC has its own built in safety system. Alcohol, together with almost all other drugs, does not have this feature and it is therefore, as everybody knows, very possible to drink yourself to death.

The synthetic cannabinoids, also known as legal highs, that pop up everywhere nowadays freak me out. Many of them turn out to be full agonists of both CB1 and CB2, which are the two major cannabinoid receptors in your brain. These drugs are not safe!

Death rates are climbing. Honestly, who cares if the latest ‘Spice’ is legal where you happen to live, if it is a million times more dangerous to your health – short and long term – compared to marijuana? Speaking of long term effects; we know very little about what these new drugs do to you in the long run, and if the side-effects are reversible. We do not know whether there is permanent damage involved, and we certainly do not have the cure for it.

This crap is sooo not worth it. Your body does not care whether the latest batch is legal or not. Seriously, just avoid.

Oh, today’s rant was inspired by this piece (open access – check it out):
Nature Medicine 2011, 17, 1339. (DOI: 10.1038/nm1111-1339)

Disclaimers and such

Allow me to be redundantly clear about one thing: I DO NEITHER SUPPORT CANNABIS USE NOR CANNABIS LEGALIZATION – OK?!

One more thing before I sign off. Don’t be a fool and take this as ‘natural compounds are safer than synthetic compounds’, because that’s plain bullshit. Believers in ‘natural medicine’ should be confronted with: Would you rather take synthetic aspirin or natural strychnine?


4 Responses to Legal highs – Just don’t

  1. henry says:

    good article, i have been telling this to some friends in the military for a while now. they use it because it is not detectable by current TMs.

    as a person who has never used cannabis, can you give me a reason for your penultimate statement “i do not support cannabis legalization”, after you just spent an article saying how cannabis cannot harm you?

    • drfreddy says:

      I am a scientist – not a politician or a lawyer. I report on facts and observations; I do not tell people how to live their lives. Also, I have no desire to be associated with any sort of movement.

      What I think or do as a private person is an entirely different matter, far beyond the scope of this public page – and none of your business.

      Something like that.

      • Steve says:

        Thank you for posting a wonderful article describing the pro’s vs. con’s of synthetic cannabis.

        Hopefully our lawmakers will soon realize what you, and millions of others of citizens, already know.

  2. Ricola says:

    This is a good post Dr. Freddy, it’s necessary to provide nowadays kids with some food-for-though to find when they are searching for online research chemical suppliers, looking for some of the JWH or AM cannabinoids.

    As far as health is concerned, I hereby contribute by saying that vaporizing Cannabis sativa is to be preferred over smoking/burning it.

    Cannabinoid receptor pharmacology and full agonism aside, those naphthyl substituents are possibly metabolized through an epoxide step, which is something you don’t want in your body either.

    Girls and boys, ladies and gents, it’s wise to believe synthetic and medicinal chemists on this one. These sorts of compounds are research tools made to study receptor pharmacology and have in no way been tested in humans. They are not designed to be healthy. None of these compounds have been toxicity tested, not even on rodents. It’s advised to avoid putting these sorts of compounds in your body, and make someone else’s purse get fat while you risk your health…

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